Ellen Kamilakis, Assistant District Administrator for Communications, VDOT Northern Virginia is looking for a Communications Manager. Find out more about her role, what she's looking for and read some great advice on being a PIO.
Give us an overview of your role and what it entails on a daily basis
I lead a Public Affairs team of five, responsible for media relations, social media, emergency and incident communications, and executive counsel.
Tell us about the role you are hiring for and what you're looking for in a new hire
I'm hiring for a Communications Manager who will take the reigns of our award-winning @vadotnova Twitter account, as well as media relations. I am looking for an independent and seasoned government PIO.
What do you love about about your job?
There are no two days that are the same. There is also a lot of room for creative expression, as well as being able to have a very human voice to our community. Nothing beats telling people that the interstate is closed due to an overturned tractor-trailer full of gummi bears.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
We have a connected community and we are very responsive to them. It can be difficult to manage all of the emotions that can be thrown at a government agency. At the end of the day, we live in this community too and when someone gets injured, you feel it deeply.
What are some of the more memorable events you’ve had to deal with in your role and what lessons did you learn?
Definitely the Snowzilla blizzard of 2016 and the overturned tanker on the American Legion bridge on the Capital Beltway. Both were extremely impactful and we went "live" both times. Our community loves seeing the people behind the plow trucks and how we interact with responders.
What is it about communications, media or crisis comms that interests you so much?
Ever since I was in elementary school, I always received notes on my report cards that I was "chatty." It is my nature to want to communicate and help people by sharing the information they need. It's important that our community feels cared for and heard.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about being a PIO?
That you can write a plan for everything ahead of time.
One piece of advice for those wanting to start a career as a Public Information Officer or comms professional
Do it. It's tough work, but there's a strong body of PIOs out there happy to support you every step of the way.
What are your favorite tools you use to do your job more effectively?
My sense of humor and need to be transparent.
What would you say to anyone in a leadership role about having a PIO who might not have one?
You absolutely need one and they need a seat at the table. There are so many subtleties to PIO work and you will see the benefits almost immediately.
Are there any books, podcasts, websites or any other resources you would recommend for the comms pro?
Anything by Dr. Vincent Covello. Absolute game changer.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about, recommend or promote?
Take it from MeeMaw (my persona on Twitter)-- the kinder you can be, the better.
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